For more than 50 years, the premier European modeling consortium known as CECAM (Centre Européen de Calcul Atomique et Moléculaire) has been promoting fundamental research on advanced computational methods and their application to important problems in frontier areas of science and technology. Now for the first time ever, CECAM is expanding to the United States and Illinois chemistry Prof. Nick Jackson is leading the team organizing the effort.

UChicago will lead the CECAM-US-CENTRAL node, joining Midwestern partners the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Argonne National Laboratory, Northwestern University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Notre Dame.

Andrew Ferguson, associate professor in the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at UChicago, will serve as the first node director for CECAM-US-CENTRAL. Jackson is the lead organizer of the new Node’s first flagship workshop, Frontiers of Computational Reaction Prediction, to be held at the University of Chicago in July 2024.

Together the Node will pursue research in condensed matter physics and chemistry, hard and soft molecular modeling and simulation, computational science, as well as data science and artificial intelligence in the context of molecular design. Moreover, the Node will host activities such as workshops, exchanges, schools, training programs and external partnerships.

"Every computational molecular scientist in the world knows about CECAM and the high quality of its overseas workshops," said Nick Jackson. "It is incredibly exciting to see CECAM expanding its reach to the US, and I am thrilled to be able to lead the organizing of the first US-based CECAM workshop. I look forward to interacting with computational experts in chemical reactivity prediction from across the globe as a first step towards turning the Midwest into a hotbed for chemical theory and computation."

CECAM-US-CENTRAL will build on its members’ established strengths in atomistic and molecular modeling, high-performance computing, and the development of mathematical methods and computational algorithms for research in physical, biological and engineering sciences. The effort will be led by the University of Chicago, and each partner institution will contribute unique resources and facilities across a range of disciplines. Some are already connected through multiple collaborative mechanisms, including the NIST-funded Center for Hierarchical Materials Design (CHiMaD), the Midwest Center for Computational Materials (MiCCoM) and the Catalyst Design for Decarbonization Center (CD4DC).

CECAM Director Andrea Cavalli said: “The CECAM-US-CENTRAL remarkably impacts the global positioning of CECAM by creating its first node outside of Europe. This node brings together a strong and exciting consortium of partners. It provides CECAM with a unique opportunity to strengthen further knowledge exchange between European and U.S. researchers in computational science. These scientific and technological activities are crucial to fostering exciting collaborations in leading-edge theories, software and applications to address grand challenges for societal progress.”